Caroline Pidgeon highlights Oyster “cash mountain”

So, Transport for London has £321 million of our money and is keeping quiet about it. Lib Dem Assembly Member and former Mayoral Candidate Caroline Pidgeon has made the headlines by uncovering the fact that TfL is sitting on this vast sum of money on Oyster cards which haven’t been used for over a year.

From the BBC:

Ms Pidgeon, chair of City Hall’s transport committee, put the “soaring” figure partly down to the number of people switching in recent years to making contactless payments with their bank cards.

She said: “TfL never stops bombarding us with advertisements and information campaigns, but highlighting this cash mountain is one issue that they remain incredibly quiet about.

“It is time TfL devoted far more time and energy telling the public how they can get their own money back.”
Oyster cards can be used to pay for journeys by Tube, rail, bus, boat and cable car.

The card system costs TfL millions a year to administer, while contactless payments are run by banks.

A useful reminder to people who may once have signed up for an Oyster card and forgotten about it.

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16 Comments

  • To be fair to TfL, if people can’t remember to reclaim their own money (it’s not like how to do so is a big secret), how is that TfL’s responsibility?

  • Given that the population of London is about £8m, that’s either about £40 per Londoner (even if you assume every Londoner has an unused card, that’s unrealistically high), or the bulk of the unused cards are owned by people who don’t live in London. Perhaps tourists who visited once, or people who are only in London every year or so for business.

    Either way, the cards almost definitely belong mostly to people who don’t live in London – i.e. people who wouldn’t see any TFL adverts. That means spending TLF money on advertising this would be a colossal waste.

  • Kay Kirkham 30th Jun '18 - 9:10pm

    I live in West Yorkshire but have an Oyster card for occasional trips to London. I do not have a contactless bank card. TfL could send me an e mail inviting me to give up my card along with the e mail I get about weekend travel problems which would cost them nothing so I assume they are happy to hold onto my £16.45!

  • Time for the tube to be privatised and destaffed. As usual the state run system is grossly inefficient and now is ripping us off. We do not need guards, station staff or rail enforcement officers. Agency staff should be the norm. Get G4S in and cut the fares. A private corporation could never get away with what this lot are up to.

  • timpson 30th Jun ’18 – 10:27pm………………………..Time for the tube to be privatised and destaffed. As usual the state run system is grossly inefficient and now is ripping us off. We do not need guards, station staff or rail enforcement officers. Agency staff should be the norm. Get G4S in and cut the fares. A private corporation could never get away with what this lot are up to…………………………….

    Have you looked at the rip-off that is the privatised rail sector? As for your G4S would cut fares???.
    From anyone else I’d believe this was a ‘spoof’ but, having read your posts on privatising police and the armed forces, I’ll just put this down as more of your strange views.

  • Laurence Cox 30th Jun '18 - 10:52pm

    It is all very well to say “The card system costs TfL millions a year to administer, while contactless payments are run by banks” but there is no such thing as a free lunch and you can be sure that the banks are charging retailers a percentage for taking contactless payments. It isn’t clear either that removing all Oyster cards will save millions as presumably they will still have to administer the system for passes that are free for users like the Freedom Pass where the local councils pay for the fares.

  • Denis Mollison 1st Jul '18 - 8:13am

    Like Kay, I keep an Oyster card for my fairly infrequent visits to London. I keep it rather than using a contactless bank card because I get a discount (33%?) on TfL fares by registering my Senior Rail card on Oyster. So yes, I have about £15 credit sitting with TfL at any one time; it’s hardly a big deal when savings interest rates are so low. And if the national total is £321 million of 0% loan to a public body, so much the better; looked at that way, you could say my £15 is ethically invested.

  • I am another very occasional visitor to London who has credit on an Oyster card. Because whenever I do visit, the queues at the ticket counters and machines at Paddington are always long and the whole place chaotic.
    If that’s three people out of eight comments, I suspect it accounts for a lot of this ‘cash mountain’.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 1st Jul '18 - 10:59am

    Yes, I do too. In fact, I didn’t go to London for more than a year at one point. They definitely have some of my money.

  • Everyone here is commenting on the issue, which is fine, but lets give a bit of kudos to Caroline for working the issue and getting it into the news, This follows quite a few recent news hits for LibDems, like Wera on upskirting, Norman on Gosport. Tim is doing good work on northern trains and Tom Brake has a pretty good profile at the moment on Brexit. We’re having a decent summer.

  • Like others here, I have a couple of Oyster cards with circa £10 on each, they get used occasionally these days, specifically when split ticketing options work in my favour. Even if TfL offered me a refund, I probably wouldn’t take it, as having a card that doesn’t expire ready for use is much more useful to me than having to obtain a new Oyster card or reaching the barrier and discover the balance on my card has been credited back to my bank and thus I now need to join a queue to top it up…

    Hence I think the question she should be asking is what are TfL doing with the actual or notional interest it is accruing on the customer funds they are holding onto – perhaps TfL should add £1 no expiry date credit for every £10 held on cards not used for 12+ months to encourage people to use them…

    I don’t really see the point Caroline is trying to make in her allusion to contactless bank payments; she really needs to present her case better, as just as with Oyster, not everyone will either have or want to use a contactless payment card, at which point you are now having to support multiple systems: traditional ticketing, Oyster and contactless, whilst incurring the full overheads of each.

  • @Stimpson – We do not need guards, station staff or rail enforcement officers. Agency staff should be the norm. Get G4S in and cut the fares.

    1. Given your first sentence – What jobs do you see Agency staff doing?
    2. I take it that you’ve never used Agency staff, otherwise, you would know that they are in fact more expensive than employees, so given your third sentence – please explain how the use of Agency staff will help you cut fares.

  • G4S can be used to provide customer service. The use of the excellent outsourcing companies or agency staff is always better as they do not have the same huge wages that rail staff get, they do not get gold plated pensions rail staff get, nor do they need free travel passes or free car parking. Unshackled by hard left union dogma, they can provide the best customer service and best practice for a fraction of the cost of hard line militant rail staff. Offshoring all back office functions and signalboxes overseas should also be implemented. Offshoring benefits everyone and improves the service immeasurably.

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